THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS
Review by Michael Jacobson
Chow Yun-Fat, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rooker, Jurgen Prochnow, Kenneth
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: Two Featurettes
Length: 96 Minutes
Release Date: April 25, 2006
boy will die, John…as well as your family.”
in YOUR lifetime.”
Replacement Killers was the film that officially introduced Chow Yun-Fat to American
audiences, along with the true signature of modern Hong Kong action films in the
style of John Woo. It was unfairly
dismissed by a number of critics who didn’t seem to have an appreciation for
the Asian tradition of action which bore it.
I proclaimed it a terrific and dynamic piece of entertainment almost five
years ago, and I continue to do so today.
main difference is, now that I review this movie for the third time, I don’t
have to dig deep into my Asian cinema vernacular to acquaint potential readers
to star Chow Yun-Fat. With the
success of films like Anna and the King, and the international mega-hit Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon, American audiences now know what Hong Kong fans have
known for years, which is that Yun-Fat is a bona fide movie star, in any country
his isn’t the only star to shine in this picture. Director Antoine Fuqua made his feature film debut with The
Replacement Killers, and I still consider it one of the most impressive
cinematic debuts of the last quarter century.
Armed with a knowledge and appreciation for Yun-Fat’s work with John
Woo (and with Woo serving as executive producer), Fuqua turned an essentially
Asian action story and gave it an American sensibility, without sacrificing any
of the cultural or artistic influences that has kept Hong Kong the action cinema
capital of the world for so long.
of Woo will recognize the stylings: ballet-like
gunplay, an almost over-the-top sense of choreography and camera movement, with
each heightening the excitement of the other, and of course, lots and lots of
violence. Nobody goes down with one
shot in this kind of film…expect each victim to get a generous helping of
double-barreled handgun output, with copious amounts of blood on top.
It’s the kind of imagery that shows violence in all its horrible
reality…but manages to stay on this side of entertaining.
plays John Lee, a quiet but deadly assassin owing Asian crime boss Wei (Tsang)
one last assignment before earning his freedom. That job is to kill the little boy of a cop (Rooker) who had
in turn killed Wei’s own son in a police raid.
Lee, however, does not enjoy his work, and finds his conscience won’t
allow him to carry out the awful deed. “There
will be consequences,” he muses.
Wei will go after his own family in Hong Kong, Lee seeks out the help of Meg
Coburn (Sorvino) to acquire a forged passport so he can return to Asia and
protect them. But it won’t be
that easy. Wei has called out two
replacement killers—men of equal skill to John, but with no qualms about
pulling the trigger. John and Meg
are soon up to their eyeballs in trouble, as the replacements’ task is to kill
them, kill the cop’s son, and kill John’s family.
bullets and the blood fly in fast and furious sequences that are stylish and
astounding. Fuqua knows what his
star is capable of, and makes the most out of Yun-Fat’s acrobatic abilities.
He keeps his camera work fast, smooth, and dizzying, elevating already
terrific action sequences to new heights. With
the combination of the best that Asian and American action films have to offer,
I sincerely believed at the time that Antoine Fuqua was scripting a new
vocabulary for the genre. Had more
people appreciated this movie for what it was, I still think he might have done
as our country grows more familiar and comfortable with the Hong Kong way of
crafting a picture, I would urge action fans who treaded lightly before to give The
Replacement Killers another try. It’s
pure movie dynamite from beginning to end, with two great stars and a visionary
new director who pulled the best that two different sides of the globe had to
offer and melded them into one terrific piece of entertainment.
thought Sony's initial release of The Replacement Killers to
be one of the best looking DVDs I’d ever seen.
I still think so. This new
extended cut version cannot improve upon the unimprovable, but it can replicate it
perfectly, which is what it did. This
film is a bonanza of rich, wildly varying and deeply saturated colors from start
to finish, which is part of the pleasure of watching it.
Cinematographer Peter Lyons Collister realized a spectacular visual world
for Fuqua, and every bit of it renders perfectly to disc.
Colors are true and pure throughout, with no distortions and no bleeding,
and images are sharply defined and detailed from start to finish.
There is no grain or compression evident to mar the pictures, even in
darker scenes. Reference quality
all the way.
5.1 soundtrack is just as explosive and dynamic as ever.
When the action stars, the fury flies from all directions, and you
won’t feel safe sitting in the middle of it!
Crossovers are smooth, and both stages are used to full dynamic
capabilities in recreation the sounds of gunplay, car crashes…even the
terrific and often thunderous musical score, which also keeps the subwoofer line
engaged. An explosive listening
If you're looking for extras, opt for the previous Special Edition release. All that's here are a making-of featurette and a look at Chow Yun-Fat going Hollywood.